Label/Date: Blond Coyote, 2017
Cynthia Hilts: piano, vocals; Jack Walrath: trumpet; Lily White: alto and tenor saxophone; Lisa Parrott: baritone and soprano saxophone; Deborah Weisz: trombone; Marika Hughes: cello; Ratzo B. Harris: bass; Scott Neumann: drums.
Cynthia Hilts, a competent and underrated pianist, composer, and singer, associates creativity with a predisposition for musical activism, in her latest album Lyric Fury, released on her own label, Blond Coyote.
The album title is also the name of the eight-piece jazz ensemble she leads, which comprises multifaceted musicians such as trumpeter Jack Walrath, saxophonists Lily White (who also produces) and Lisa Parrott, trombonist Deborah Weisz, cellist Marika Hughes, bassist Ratzo Harris, and drummer Scott Neumann.
Instigating a 5/4 reggae groove, “Those Basinites” was inspired by the residents of Basin, Montana. The improvisations succeed one after another in a typical 4/4 blues form, here and there complemented by the horn section’s joyful fills.
“Teacher” starts with solo piano, but soon develops a chamberesque aura through the classical melodies delivered by Hughes’s cello and Parrott’s soprano sax. The bandleader, finding more space to express her improvisational skills, orchestrates the piece with balladry, turning it into a gentle medieval dance.
Musical diversity is strongly encouraged. Thus, while the blues sound fresh in “Blues For the Bronchs” and the warm strokes of reggae hit us again in “Jam & Toast”, the Latin pulses of “Previously a Thing” takes us to the euphonic universe of Horace Silver.
Completely distinct in nature, “Peace Now”, is a vocalized African-tinged exultation of peace, love, truth, and justice. The song ends with the female members singing on top of Neumann’s percussive chops.
The word peace can be heard again in “Celebration”, a non-standard AABA form and a festive communion of horns and vocals that thrive at a daring 5/4 tempo and flutters with brisk, colorful improvisations by Walrath, Hilts, and Parrott on baritone.
White’s tenor is responsible for stating the theme's melody of “Three Wishes”, an epic tune of mystical resolve that concedes an opportunity for Neumann to express his rhythmic faculties in front of the drum kit.
Painted with darker colors, “Please, Mercy” brings us beseeching trombone lines and desperate vocals over a lower-register piano ostinato. The mood changes when a victorious march imposes, commanded by Neumann’s snare-drum rolls.
Imaginative, Cynthia Hilts drives this caravan with an infallible sense of orientation, taking advantage of a wide range of musical genres and instruments’ timbres to create a conscious jazz sealed with her own signature.
01 – Those Basinites ► 05 – Three Wishes ► 06 – Celebration